Photos on Picasa.
Results on the race website.
After a Saturday dedicated to recovery from the vertical kilometre, resting, and seeing the osteopath who manipulated things to put my stomach and intestine back into place and avoid any similar digestive inconvenience on the marathon, I had lunch at the post-cross buffet, and dinner at the pre-marathon buffet, and took an early night. I also got an extra-early morning when I was suddenly pulled out of sleep by a huge thunder shaking my tent, shortly followed by a downpour... With only about half an hour to go to my alarm, there was no point trying to get back to sleep, so I started packing everything inside my tent. Shortly after 5am I took advantage of a pause in the rain to also pack my (wet) tent and rush to the campsite shelter for breakfast. There I waited for David and his hyperactive friend who I had met the day before. Last minute he realised he had lost the cap for his water pouch and had to tape it closed... not sure how he managed refills over the race then... We walk to the start where his friend is all over-stressed about starting at the very front so he would be on the photo in the news the next day... :-/ I leave them to that and stay on the side, appreciating the music, the ambiance of a starting line on the Balma square of Chamonix (next one will be the big scary UTMB...!), and the fact that it is not raining anymore! Actually a clearing in the clouds let us see some of the peaks around: just awesome! This gotta be one of the most beautiful places in the world :-O
And it is the start. I start cautiously, as usual finding that everybody is going way too fast for a 42km race all uphill. The start is a hilly section on a large track about all the way to the first aid station in Argentieres. Then it's further up through a forest, where I meet two runners who came all the way from Colmar with their club D'ranner (a few dozen runners altogether on the different races) and are filming. I leave them behind on the next downhill (yes there were a few of these, even if the course was mostly uphill) to the second aid station at Vallorcines. There the serious things begin with the climb to the col des Posettes.
I have very few memories of this race now that it's been a month since I ran it, but the one thing I'll not forget is the climb to the Aiguillette des Posettes. Now we are finally in the mountains, after a first part with roads and easy tracks that were best for those road runners. There is an aid station at the Col des Posettes at the bottom of the climb, and then there is a short final climb to the very top, in a file of runners. I pass runners, but then at the top I have to stop to take my phone out to take photos, the view is just brilliant. It was pretty cloudy but it was still worth the detour. We are climbing on top of rocks and around them on a narrow track, surrounded by mountains at 360°. And then comes the second bonus: the downhill! :-) I just pass about everybody, a (rather muscular) guy jokingly complains about us lucky lighter runners who can go fast downhill.
After this first loop we run part of a track we had done before, and start climbing through the forest again but then it splits as we reach the aid station at Tre le Champ. Someone tells me there is only 13 km left to the finish, and I'm surprised, because it feels like I've only just started this race! :-O And then I remember it's only 42km in total, so it makes sense :-) From there we keep climbing in the forest for a while on short laces. I climb rather well even compared to other runners, and regularly pass people. I think lots of participants are not trail runners but road runners and have no experience of uphills so they really struggle. And the other sign of that is that there is a full lot of junk left on the trails, and that runners are generally less chatty than usual. Then this single track through the forest opens on a large rocky track where we have to climb to the top of the col, where we can see the hut where the checkpoint of Flegere is. It's a pretty steep final climb to reach this aid station where I take a welcome break.
And here comes the last section. I pass a guy who seems to be in trouble, just as we pass a hiking sign that announces Planpraz (where the finish is) at 2 hours (for about 5k). I tell him we should be way faster than that, all the more running, but apparently he can't anymore... Well I can, so I leave him to his slow walk and decide to finish as fast as I can to make it in about 7h30. Also it's starting to rain a bit and it's really foggy now. Other than that it's a pretty fun section this one, hilly and technical track. There is one section equipped with cables and steps where the PGHM is watching for our safety. And then comes "the wall": we can see the finish not far, but just about vertically above us. Also there is now lots of people watching and cheering along the track, and many finishers walking down with their medals to encourage us. It's pretty steep and I can only walk, pushing on my poles, until I reach the final stretch, I can see the arch and I start running towards it. To finally make it in 7h31 :-)
Then I queue for ages (about an hour) to take the cable car down to Chamonix, before being told that as a runner I could have skipped the queue... too bad. I have to rush to get back to the buffet area, where I get a shower, a meal (great food!), even have time for a massage (I unwillingly skip the queue by taking the wrong entrance and then invoke my early train to score an immediate massage...), and then rush to the train station for the loooong way home. SNCF, à nous de vous faire préférer la voiture... :-/
Conclusion: this is a great race, perfectly organised, well-marked, with awesome scenery, and highly recommended! Plus it's in Chamonix, the place to be! :-D